When Great Minds Disagree
Article by Erika Salerno
We all know the famous phrase, "great minds think alike," frequently describes a unique coincidence, not necessarily the reality. Parents are no exception. As the annual calendar creeps closer to fall, and the summer "To Do List" wanes, parents begin to focus on "back to school." Parents, whether in a relationship or not, can disagree on the best educational path for their children. However, when a court order outlines a joint legal custody arrangement between two parents, and they disagree, the court must intervene, and make the decision for them, consistent with the best interests of the child. Lombardo v. Lombardo, 202 Mich App 151; 507 NW2d 788 (1993).
Sometimes, the disagreement is about which school in a community full of great educational options is the best for the child. But, given the ever increasing mobility of our society, and the increase in equal parenting time arrangements, disputes over school choice are frequently paired with more complicated child custody matters. These may include a change of custody or a change of domicile. For instance, when parents have been enjoying equal parenting time and homeschooling their child while living more than 100 miles apart, the proposal to enroll the child in a "brick and mortar" school shifts to a change of custody. The decision regarding which "brick and mortar" school district to enroll the child will dramatically impact the child custody arrangement. These types of decisions are difficult for parents, as well as courts, to resolve. Frequently, the court process can last several months, requiring witness testimony about parenting styles, communities and a detailed analysis of the educational options. A parent facing this type of legal battle can benefit from the following tips:
- Plan ahead and be patient. The legal process is anything but swift these days. Consult an attorney about your case as soon as you believe there may be a dispute about school choice.
- Do your homework. There is a tremendous amount of research available online comparing academic opportunities and communities in which we live. The more information you have available to support your position, the better prepared you will be for court.
- Consider your child. Although rewarding, winning a legal battle can be costly. If your position does not align with your child, your legal victory may mean a strained relationship with your child for years to come.
Great minds may not always think alike, but such disagreements can be made easier by planning ahead. Considering these simple tips ahead of time can save you headaches in the future.